Category Archives: Television Reviews

IR TV Review: TRUE DETECTIVE [HBO-S2]

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“True Detective” bases itself in creating a noir style of world. While many people reserve their judgments on the first viewing, I wanted to see the second episode at least6 to allow a perspective. With last season, I binged watched one night in NYC after seeing Colin Farrell’s “A Winter’s Tale” with about 4 episodes before I headed off to the bar at 2am for a nightcap. Interestingly enough a year or so later, it comes around full circle with Colin in the lead for the second season here. Despite his attempt to create balance, these kind of dark characters are what Colin does best…guys that want to go the high road but fall tempted to their base natures while searching out redemption. This is true of all the characters in this series. In the first 2 episodes, Colin’s is the most pronounced which is why the impact action at the end of the 2nd episode has such effect. If they stick to their guns on it, it shows a great presence of mind with the writers and an interesting movie by Farrell to regain some cred. “Miami Vice” is the last time he progressed deep and entrenched himself and, as a result, that performance has a definitely degree of soul. He went into the backwaters of Ecuador and the DR with Michael Mann while Jamie Foxx opted out. Different people. Here you can see a little bit of that edginess peeking through. Colin is more controlled but he, like Gary Oldman, when properly poised, can do great things. And with Colin, the older he gets the better he gets. Oldman, by comparison, had it right from the start.

In this series, Colin plays a cop in a subsection of downtown/east LA that seems to be under the thumb of questionable figures and is able to keep his head just above water. An aspect of his former fiancée getting raped and her having a son anyway screams dysfunction and Colin embodies it. Not his fault in terms of the character…just a side effect of life. On the other side of the sheet is Vince Vaughn’s gangster who is trying to go legit. It is nice to see this side of Vaughn again but he is not as edgy as he could be. At one point in the second episode you start to see his fangs come out, if all goes well, the animal will rear its head and that is when Vaughn will shine. He needs a resurgence and this will present it. Rachel McAdams’ character is flawed but has the possibilities to be the strongest of them all. When she subtly calls Colin’s character out at one point, it comes off as sly, intelligent and spot on. She does have a immense dark side that shows in different ways whether it be raiding a house where her sister is doing web cams legally as an “art piece” or her research into a suspect who was into escorts. You can see her slipping and that is intriguing to do. This iteration of “True Detective” does not shy away from the darker edges of LA or the near bottom feeders who exist there. People there want to do good (a large part of the main characters are cops) but they just can’t get above water. The use of location is also exceptional too. This is the underbelly of LA that you don’t see or usually see from a different angle (even Malibu).

The last of the main characters is Taylor Kitsch’s motorcycle cop whose deeper seat relationship problems show that the devil is in the details. His character is not as well defined in terms of personality traits in the first two episodes but hopefully his character will unravel in the best possible dramatic way. “John Carter” wasn’t his fault as it was not a bad film. Its timing, like “Tomorrowland”, was simply wrong. “Battleship”, of course, is another story. And in Season 2, even supporting characters are great from Colin’s boozy would be partner (Bruce McGill is that you?) to Kelly Reilly as Vaughn’s better half/black widow partner. The reality is that her character can likely cause some widespread carnage. We’ll see. The first two episode of Season 2 of “True Detective” is a different animal than its predecessor and will be held under the microscope with infinitely more scrutiny. While the former had the element of surprise and Louisiana, it is a matter of time to whether LA can stand up to the challenge. So far though, it is working.

B+

IR TV Review: STAR WARS – REBELS – S2 PREMIERE [Disney XD]

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The key with “Star Wars: Rebels” has always been connection the emotional impact and nostalgia of the old series, bridging the mythology of the prequels and leading them towards the new films. If there is one thing that Disney knows, it is synergy. But what really seems to be working well here is integrating also the lifeline of “The Clone Wars” animated series with the new storylines. As dense and political as that series became, what it did do was immensely humanize Anakin Skywalker, specifically his relationship with his Padewan Ahsoka. The first episodes of season 2 of “Rebels” adequately pushes that.

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There is a great reveal moment in the premiere episode but is interesting in that the series gives the audience a leg up on the proceedings that the main characters in the series do not possess. It creates a interesting quagmire for this season, one that unfortunately can only end in tragedy. That said, it creates stakes for the series and gives it more dynamic perspective. Strangely enough, the series is on XD which is more tween oriented and this is definitely a multi generational show through and through. The balance of force between Ezra and Kanan continues to work well especially in a face off with a certain Sith. The different consequences of actions though ring in eerie parallel, especially the burning of a place called Tarkin Town and the aspect of the Sith using “compassion” as a rebel weakness to his advantage.

 

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The concluding showdown of the episode brings to mind the inherent strategy of thinking outside the box as in the original trilogy. At certain points you do feel it veering into military and political turmoil but the key in this series is always to bring it back to the main characters and with this season specifically: Ahsoka. “Rebels” has found a great crux of perception but needs to keep building. But with supervising director Dave Filoni as usual at the helm (like he was with “Clone Wars”), the course is in good hands.

Real World Mythology & Grand Progression: Returning Television – Summer 2012 – Part I

Hour-long mythology set within the real world needs to increase its bounty by stakes. Without something truly lost, nothing can be gained but its intensity can’t be fake. While some of the following shows continue to show a penchant in the writer’s room in their willingness to take chances, a wrong step can mean cancellation. The grand progression allows that the following four shows exist on cable where their fate is a little more plausible. Overall though, “Burn Notice” jolts most with a necessary ploy that lifts its possibility yet again.


Burn Notice  Nothing hits home as much as family so in order for the series to graduate, the stakes must become higher without losing a sense of tension. Beginning the season with Fi’s imminent degragation at the hands of authority focuses Michael’s penchant away from professional importance to personal survival. In working through this texture and maintaining the status quo, the show maintained its execution. However, with the death of a family member, a whole new psychological angle surfaces that completely changes the tone. This single act is what heightens Michael’s resolve and the fact that he is guilty and to blame is not lost on him. The requisite end game plays that betrayal, whether intended or not, carries a large price tag, even if its true importance does not become specific until later. For this reason, the viciousness in Michael begins to cloud his judgment which is what the show needs because thereby a character starts making mistakes.


Royal Pains  The evolution of this show requires a decided amount of intrigue while still keeping the stakes progressing. While this is not as life threatening as the aforementioned “Burn Notice”, the conflict to some degree should be there (even if it is more domestic). Oddly enough with this season, the progression becomes more the ascension of Evan and the conflict of brotherhood. Hank seems to have a higher calling but is held back by both his moral center and his lack of ambition per se. Evan, because he has a girlfriend who is both highly placed and accessible (a very rare commodity), finds traversing the line a bit easier. Hank’s love life, by contradiction, seems to become a bit of a noose around his neck. Though Mark Fuerstein plays it with a little abandon, it tends to feel forced as does Henry Winkler’s inclusion (despite its obvious comedic value). The balance to Evan’s element comes in the form of Divya, the physician’s associate, simply because she is suffering the same crisis of class that Evan is but moving in the reverse. The intrigue of the series wants to center around Boris (played with aplomb by Campbell Scott who understands the necessity of gravitas) but unlike previous seasons, its stakes don’t carry as much weight.

The Glades Using the aspect of a long distance relationship as a distraction for Matt Passmore’s uber-focused Jim creates an interesting dynamic that points to his survival in more ways than one. For something to truly affect him, something needs to be undeniably lost. In his relationship with Callie (who has moved to Atlanta at his motivation for a job), there doesn’t seem to be anything chemical to attach them. There is a stronger connection between him and a visiting bureau chief: Jennifer Stark. She is there to evaluate him but her tantalizing and alluring beauty tempts him though he doesn’t act on it. However, her approach seems too obvious to be realistic. The actual act would need to be more clandestine. The team, including Carlos and their intrepid intern, have a nice balance going but the investigation of Jim’s effectiveness, especially his inablity to be on the witness stand because of his methods, mirrors a similar problem “The Finder” faced on FOX before it was cancelled.


Covert Affairs Watching Annie Walker traverse what she believes the CIA is and knowing the balance between using an asset and being conned has always been the angle of the show. What continues to be interesting about watching her and Auggie (played by Christopher Gorham) is how their human failings affect their true CIA effectivenss. Like any other job, it is all about how one reacts or doesn’t react under pressure. Annie is a lonely soul who wants connection but her skill set and her ambition drive her into situations that she more and more can’t control. Her arc with Russian would-be spy/mercenary Simon carries risk because you can tell there are feelings on both ends that can only end badly. Her actions will continue to harden her and will either get her sister or Auggie killed in the process (most likely by the CIA) which might bring up a whole new can of worms, for her, as a mercenary. Auggie’s psychological development (especially with him going into the field as well as his turning point when he is captured by pirates with his would-be fiancee) points to a larger ghost hanging below the surface. His mandatory counseling and inability to directly connect with Annie (especially with her going off-book with another division) creates tension but her loyalty to her is unwavering.

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